Clothing Alteration Worker
Clothing alteration workers make changes and repairs to all types of garments. They use sewing machines and do hand stitching. A small number of alteration workers specialise and work on theatrical costumes.
Clothing alteration workers make changes to all types of garments, such as dresses, trousers, skirts and jackets. The work is carried out from instructions given by the customer. Garments may be altered by hand or by machine and are pressed once alterations are complete.
- repairing damaged garments
- shortening or lengthening clothes
- taking in and letting out items
- replacing zips and buttons.
Various kinds of fabric are worked on including silk, cotton, linen, wool and synthetics, such as polyester. Tools used include sewing machines, needles, pins and scissors. Alteration workers usually need to maintain their own machines.
Many alteration workers combine this type of work with tailoring or dressmaking. This type of work is often done at home, although sewing rooms are sometimes found in separate workrooms at retail premises.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To do this job well, you will need:
- To have nimble fingers and be able to work neatly, quickly and accurately.
- A good working knowledge of sewing techniques.
- Patience, as the work can be detailed and require careful attention.
- Knowledge of sewing machines.
- Good people skills if you have contact with customers.
As a large number of alteration workers are self-employed, business skills are also useful.
People with skin conditions and breathing problems may need to think carefully about entering this job.
Pay and Opportunities
Pay rates for clothing alteration workers vary depending on the type of work they undertake. The pay rates given below are approximate.
Self-employed workers' incomes may vary according to levels of work.
Salaried workers can expect to earn in the range of £12,500 - £17,000, rising to £18,000 - £22,000 with experience.
Hourly rates range from £6 to £10 per hour.
What's happening in this area?
Employment has been in falling for many years within this industry.
Women currently fill just over 1 in 5 of all jobs in this industry and so are under-represented.
Hours of work
Alteration workers usually work a basic 39-hour week, which may include shift work. There may be opportunities for part-time work and work at home.
Where could I work?
Employers are dressmakers, fashion houses, tailors, dry cleaners, theatres, and television and film production companies.
Opportunities for alteration workers occur with employers in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Opportunities occur for experienced alteration workers to work independently on a self-employed basis.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised on all the major job boards, on Universal Jobmatch, and at Jobcentre Plus.
Entry Routes and Training
Most new applicants are adults with experience in the clothing industry who require little further training.
There are various relevant courses available for people trying to get into this career. For example:
- The Certificate in Making it in Fashion from the National Open College Network (NOCN) at level 1.
- ABC Diplomas in Fashion and Textiles at levels 1 and 2.
An Advanced Level Apprenticeship is also a great place to start.
Any training usually covers employers' preferred work methods and is carried out on-the-job, under the supervision of an experienced member of staff.
Progression could be to supervisory positions.
You do not usually need educational qualifications to enter this work. However, most alteration workers have experience of garment production. A GCSE in Art and Design, or Design and Technology (Textiles Technology) would be useful.
To get onto an Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you'll usually need 5 GCSEs at grade C or above, including English and Maths, or to have completed an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship.
For most level 1 qualifications, there aren't any entry requirements.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Most entrants have skills in some form of garment manufacturing. Many have worked as sewing machinists or in tailoring.
Practical work in the clothing manufacturing industry is valuable. An interest in fashion and design is helpful.
Some people enter this career via a Fashion and Textiles Intermediate Level Apprenticeship.
- 51% of people in occupations such as clothing alteration are self-employed.
- 28% work part-time.
Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far
National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 9178000
Skills for the creative industries
Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills
Creative & Cultural Skills
Skills for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing arts and visual arts
National Open College Network (NOCN)
Tel: 0114 2270500
Address: 1st Floor, St James's Buildings, Oxford Street, Manchester M1 6FQ
Tel: 0161 2371188
Drapers: The Fashion Business
Address: Greater London House, Hampstead Road, London NW1 7EJ
Tel: 020 3033 2600